When someone decides to lose weight, often times the focus is on the number on the scale. At 275 lbs, I was morbidly obese, and shedding pounds was the most important thing to me. I was pre-hypertensive and pre-diabetic, and the scale was my main tool for determining success. Weight loss isn’t linear, and I was aware of this, but the trend was downward oriented, so I was happy. But when I reached my goal weight of 160 lbs in August 2014, things changed: I switched to maintenance mode, upped my calories, and started strength training. And that’s when the panic began.
With eating slightly more (I didn’t go crazy, just a couple hundred calories) and adding kettlebells to my workout routine, the scale started to climb. And climb. And climb. November through January I was in a pretty dark place. I almost got back to 175, a gain of 15 lbs from my goal. Despite insistence that I was looking fantastic, despite my size 10 jeans being downright baggy, despite needing a belt, despite upping my kettlebell from 20 lbs to 30 lbs to do the same exercises, I was distressed. I looked at my 100 lbs down photos from the year before and didn’t see any changes from what I saw in the mirror. What was I doing wrong?
I cut my calories back from 2100 to 1900 per day. I (sort of) tried to add in some extra cardio. Okay, I’m just trying to move a little bit more. The scale started moving back in the right direction, slowly, so slowly, but moving. But the other day I took some photos of myself while I was working out, and I saw it. I saw the strength in my arms and the lines on my belly that WERE NOT stretch marks but the shadows of muscles, there, deep under the skin. Later that day I grabbed one of the old 100 lb down photos and, using Gimp, stuck the old photo right next to the new.
Do you ever have one of those moments where you realize you’ve been a total fool for not realizing something? For focusing so much on one thing that you can’t see the forest for the trees? This was my moment. Because despite there being less than 6 lbs of difference between the two photos, the visual difference was striking. And I realized that 10 lbs I had gained since goal wasn’t fat. I wasn’t a failure. I was doing something right. It took a shift in perspective, but I got there. And if it wasn’t for those progress photos from my 100 lbs down goal, I wouldn’t have anything to compare it to.
Think about it: you look at yourself every day. It’s hard to notice changes when you’re looking every day, because changes are small. How many of us started our weight loss journeys because of seeing a picture where we couldn’t believe how big we’d gotten? We use those photos as a motivational tool to get the ball rolling, and we should continue to use those on our journeys. This, I’ve realized, is EXTRA important AFTER we reach goal. Because while the scale can be a very useful tool, it sometimes lies.
Also? Don’t be afraid to show these pictures to other people. I mean, not just any stranger on the internet, but people you trust. I posted the last set of photos on a weight loss group on Facebook. These people are mostly strangers to me, but they’re part of a group that shares a fandom, so I figured it was a safe place, and it was. I was almost brought to tears, though, when a woman commented on the photo with the simple phrase: “Nice abs!” Who? ME?! I realized for the first time in my life, MY ENTIRE LIFE, I was FIT. Not skinny, not thin, but FIT. And that, my friends, is a wonderful feeling.